Give and Take with Swap-O-Matic

Do you prefer shopping – or swapping? A group of collaborators in New York have decided to serve a very specific niche customer with a new kind of vending machine: The Swap-O-Matic. This experiment isn’t about making money. It’s intended to serve as a commentary on our society of immediate gratification and an exploration of how to play with the idea of reusing items instead of discarding them.

The Swap-O-Matic concept is easy to grasp. You get 3 credits for signing up (which is free – all you need is a valid email address). Then, you can earn more credits by donating items into the machine. You can swap the item you are putting in for something that’s already in the machine. Or, you can use your credit balance to get what you want. Some days, you might find just what you are looking for. Other days, you will probably take a pass. You can check online to see what’s on offer on any given day. The items in the machine aren’t high value – but they can be useful for the right swapper. Here’s a snapshot of what’s in there right now:

  • Candy Cane (new)
  • Mittens and a Top
  • 3 Month Onesie
  • Yarn for Friendship Bracelet
  • Condoms (presumably also new)

There’s no face to face negotiating or bartering – which makes it perfect for people who like a good trade but who aren’t skilled at haggling. Either you think what you have is worth trading for what’s in the machine or you don’t. So far, there is only one Swap-O-Matic machine. It’s in Brooklyn at an ice cream parlor. The machine is regularly moved to new locations to reach a wider audience.

While you are waiting for a Swap-O-Matic to travel to your neighborhood, you can still take advantage of the trading/recycling phenomenon through sites like Freecycle. Surely, there’s someone out there who wants whatever knick-knack you don’t.

Tags: Shopping